In celebration of Jo’s new book, Jo Frost’s Toddler Rules, Jo is sharing an excerpt from the book for this month’s newsletter.
Chapter 1 – The Five Rules of Disciplined Parenting
I’m sure you remember the overwhelming feeling of love you experienced when your child was first placed in your arms, that animalistic feeling of wanting to protect. I bet you also remember the tremendous sense of responsibility to get it right as well, the realization that this tiny being is totally dependent on you and you want to give him everything he needs and be the best parent possible. Throughout the first twelve months or so of your baby’s life, you were focused on meeting his needs for sleep, food, and stimulation, as well as all the other developmental milestones that come in that first year. Once you figured out what his various cries meant and a schedule to meet those needs, life with your little one made you a bit more confident, didn’t it? You felt proud you got through the first year and adjusted well, with thousands of photos to prove it.
Then she starts walking and one day, as you’re trying to get her to do something—perhaps get her clothes on, or get her in her car seat—it happens. She digs in her heels and throws a wobbly: kicking like a Premier League soccer player, screaming at the top of her lungs, throwing herself down on the ground. Hello . . . and welcome to the toddler tantrum.
But it isn’t just tantrums you have to deal with now. Suddenly you have a Mini-Me who tells you what she does and doesn’t want. She’s a bundle of contradictions. She wants independence—and she wants you to do everything for her. One minute it’s “Feed me!”—the next she’s refusing to eat. She wants to pour her own milk, but it spills all over. She wants to get out of the stroller and walk, but she won’t stay by your side and you’re afraid she’ll dart out into the street. She’s learned the power of the word no and uses it as frequently as possible: no, she doesn’t want to go to bed; no, she doesn’t want to share her toy; no, she doesn’t want to sit at the table in the restaurant . . . No, no, no, no.
Now what you need to give your child is more challenging than ever before. You want to give her all she needs in order to grow into a happy, healthy, productive adult with good morals, healthy boundaries, and the ability to function well in the world. You see the long-term vision in your mind. And you still want to be the best parent possible so that one day when she’s grown, she’ll look back and say, “You did a good job, Mom. Thank you.” Parents know that when you have a child you get the title, but here’s where you start to earn it.
Take a moment now and think of a picture that represents your desire to give your child the best. Is it you and your little one snuggled warm and cozy in bed while you read a story? Is it pushing her on a swing and her belly laughing in the wind with delight? Is it the classic holiday card with you and your spouse surrounded by your smiling children? Whatever it is, take a moment to visualize it. Freeze the image. See it in color. Experience how happy and content that picture makes you feel.
That picture is possible. You can have it. But it takes knowing what fundamentals you need to put in place, the skills you must have to get there, and the discipline to do what’s needed day after day for years. Remember, you’re aiming to be a conscious parent to your toddler, the person who consistently provides for your child. To achieve this, you have to make sure your child has:
- The right amount of sleep
- Consistent mealtimes with proper portions and the right kinds of foods
- Opportunities for getting out and about, for physical activity, stimulation, and socialization
- Early learning activities to help with child development
- A clear sense of your family’s expectations for behavior, and appropriate corrections when necessary